Monday 19 November 2018

JJ gets No 10 reins as Simon Zebo says emotional goodbye to Thomond Park

Simon Zebo of Munster salutes the Munster fans
Simon Zebo of Munster salutes the Munster fans
Simon Zebo gets ready for a home farewell during Munster squad training. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Time to roll the dice then as Munster face their last chance to scratch a seven-year title itch.

After being brittle in Bordeaux, Johann van Graan's men must produce one of those titanic Thomond displays to ensure they can extend their season and, perhaps, demonstrate they have what it takes to thwart Leinster in a fortnight's time.

What may come is influenced by what has passed as Van Graan decides to take the plunge and make a significant shift in selection emphasis, ditching his previously preferred out-half Ian Keatley.

JJ Hanrahan gets the opportunity to demonstrate that he can bring the poise and precision that was lacking during Munster's lamentable European exit.

Ahead of the strongest pack he will have marshalled in some time, his suitability will be eagerly eyed by supporters and management.

The result today should not hinge on his selection but the performance may well do so, as well as shining a light on the province's potential to advance deeper in this competition, as it should be expected that they must prevail, for all the genuine improvements wrought by Richard Cockerill in the perennially under-achieving Scottish capital club.

With the superior attacking back three - including a home farewell for Simon Zebo - Munster should have enough fire-power once they can negate the effective Edinburgh back-row who have thrived all season; with points to prove throughout the Munster pack, that task is non-negotiable.

Munster have a strong bench, too, with Gerbrandt Grobler, Robin Copeland and Dave Kilcoyne waiting to strike.

Edinburgh won the only fixture between the sides this season but that was on the same weekend as the Grand Slam was completed so hardly represents a logical form-line.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - S Zebo; A Conway, S Arnold, R Scannell, K Earls; JJ Hanrahan, C Murray; J Cronin, R Marshall, S Archer, J Kleyn, B Holland, P O'Mahony (capt), J O'Donoghue, CJ Stander. Reps: M Sherry, D Kilcoyne, C Parker, G Grobler, R Copeland, J Hart, I Keatley, D Sweetnam.

Edinburgh - B Kinghorn; D Fife, M Bennett, C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, S Hidalgo-Clyne; J Lay, S McInally (capt), S Berghan, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, J Ritchie, B Mata. Reps: N Cochrane, A Dell, WP Nel, L Carmichael, C du Preez, N Fowles, D Weir, J Johnstone.

Ref - N Owens (WRU).

  • Munster v Edinburgh, Live Sky Sports Action, 3.15

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